Hospitality is as old as human civilization, as humans have been traveling for trade, education or pilgrimage. As the oldest living civilization India has a tradition called – Atithi Devo Bhava, which essentially means that an unannounced guest is comparable to Devatas or Gods.
Our ancient cities, towns, villages and even our pathways had provisions for travelers to rest or stay for short stays. Our cave systems on the trade routes are a testimony to this tradition.
The hotels and hospitality industry though is a product of the industrial age, when businessmen created a hotel as a product for travelers. Now, you could pay to stay in luxury properties and be pampered by their staff. Yes, to begin with, most hotels were a luxury and catered to the upper echelons of society.
The last couple of decades in India saw a huge growth in hotels driven by economic growth coupled with aviation growth that made travel affordable and accessible to the larger population.
The processes of the hotel industry though stayed rooted in the distant past. So, most hotels expect you to check in around 2 PM or later, and you must check out by 12 noon or so. This allows them a couple of hours to prepare the room for the next guest. However, you end up getting 22 hours in lieu of 24 hours.
There are some hotels that offer 24-hour checkout, but they are too few in number.
The worst is when you land at night and have to leave the next evening. You either pay for two nights or end up having your luggage in the hotel storage room.
Similarly, for longer stays, you want an environment that is cozier than the cold hotels. You may want the flexibility of cooking yourself or having someone cook specifically for you as per your liking. I really want this on short work assignments or when I am exploring a place by spending ample time there.
Technology impacted the travel sector big time with the advent of Online Travel Agents, who brought the whole gamut of accommodation options to our fingertips. However, they did not change the base business model of the industry or approach it from a customer’s perspective.
So, when I heard about Bag2Bag offering hotels on an hourly basis, I explored their website in detail. I checked for various properties in Tier I cities where I usually need a quick night stay or need a place to change before a meeting or relax for a few hours before taking a connecting flight.
I was happy to see that I could find hotels for 2 hours as well as 12 hours besides the usual 24 hours. It works well for me. It also works well for the hotel as their fill rate or occupancy rate goes up on average.
Potential challenges that I see for the business include their ability to convince the hotel properties to offer hotels on an hourly basis. Bag2Bag is essentially a technology-driven marketplace that allows the booking of hotels through its platform. To offer hourly rates or not remains a business decision of the hotels.
I would treat it as a much-needed experiment like most innovations are, to begin with. It may need small course corrections here and there, or maybe a few pivots to streamline and mainstream the processes.
Bag2Bag initially did see resistance from the hotels but the pandemic worked big time in their favor. They saw hoteliers warming up to their ideas and taking bookings on an hourly basis. At the time of writing, they have about 3500 hotels that you can book on an hourly basis, 60% of which are in Tier I cities, already signed up for hourly offerings.
They also offer an added advantage to check-in/check-out during long hours. Barring midnight, most hours are available to travelers to check in or check out, giving them the desired flexibility.
As a frequent traveler, I definitely see a huge need for it, and that essentially means a huge potential for this business. I see intangible benefits like being able to take flights or trains without bothering about the hotel bills. This gives me the much-needed elasticity in planning my travels.
The overall cost of a trip should also come down as I would pay only for what I use and not a standard price for 22 hours irrespective of how much I use it.
Coming to the other end of the spectrum, we look for viable and comfortable options for extended stays. Digital nomads are always looking for value-driven long-stay options. The pandemic has put many more people in that category. Many of us now want to work from our dream destinations like Goa or Himachal.
What we need is a home-like environment with good internet connectivity. Food options should include self-cooking or home-like food. It is not easy to live on outside food for too long. This is the second big offering from Bag2Bag.
Most people prefer to stay in a service apartment, private villa, cottage or homestay for extended stays. If you are traveling alone or as a couple you prefer homestays & for large groups of family and friends you prefer private space like a cottage or a villa.
Homestays also bring people closer to the local culture, which kind of stays veiled in hotels that tend to provide a standard universal experience. Resorts on the other hand let you stay away from the maddening crowd and let you enjoy nature or quiet solitude.
Bag2Bag also plans to foray into offering the bookings of experiences on their website and app.
This should be an interesting feature to look forward to. I know many local experiences curated by local architects or artisans or chefs. Walking tours, especially heritage trails are very popular. Then there are experiences to pamper yourself like spa treatments or deep-dive with local cooking classes. However, it is not easy to locate one in every destination unless you know about the service provider through your own network.
To be able to search for an experience based on destination, area of interest, time available and cost would help both the travelers as well as service providers. Travelers would be able to make the best use of their time at their destination. Experience curators would be able to reach a wider audience and hopefully also design more experiences.
Bag2Bag aims to be a hospitality portal, that stays focussed on various stay options, from hourly hotels to extended stays, from Tier I cities that see business travel to holiday destinations that see long stays, from experiences to enrich the travel to engaging with the local community.
The website allows you to search on multiple parameters including the specific area within a city. I appreciate the fact that they allow separate searches for:
Homestays & Villas
Experiences (soon to be launched)
Most of their hourly hotels are in Tier I cities that people visit mostly for business. Homestays and resorts tend to be in and around popular holiday destinations like Coorg or Hampi.
I also see them offering pre-booked meals. Does that excite me, I am not sure, for who knows what I would feel like having days later? I have never appreciated that feature with flight bookings but that’s just me. People who plan tightly or are too sure of their meal plans may just like it.
Like any e-commerce portal, they regularly come up with deals, discounts and loyalty programs. So, do check them at the time of booking.
Incorporated in 2019, Bangalore-based Bag2Bag has been founded by three engineers Alok Mishra, Anurag Tiwari, and Gaurav Garg. As of now, they are focussed on building the Indian market but do have plans to go global in near future.
This post has been written in association with Bag2Bag.